Moral Idiocy

by Sonny Bunch on September 15, 2012

I have no sympathy for anyone who would assassinate a U.S. ambassador. But I have even less sympathy for filmmakers who spread hatred and for pastors who knowingly incite violence.

The Rev. Steven D. Martin* on the recent kerfuffle in the Middle East. Much like when Stephen A. Crockett Jr. suggested he wasn’t sure “what’s worse,” D.C.’s sky-high murder rate or the name of a new hipster bar, there’s a moral idiocy to Martin’s comment that is extremely troubling. What he is literally saying here is that he is more bothered by a filmmaker’s actions than by the murder of a U.S. ambassador who was located within an American consulate. To the good Rev., free speech is more dangerous than Islamists with RPGs looking for any excuse to attack and kill Americans.

Of course, the Rev. is not alone in his disdain for free speech. And at least he has the decency not to call for the arrest and imprisonment of the filmmakers! No, that honor was grabbed by Anthea Butler, a tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania who actually wrote the following lines:

Words have consequences. I know that because one of my tweets asking “when Sam Bacile would be arrested” drew wide attention on Wednesday. …

Bacile’s movie is not the first to denigrate a religious figure, nor will it be the last. The Last Temptation of Christ was protested vigorously. The difference is that Bacile indirectly and inadvertently inflamed people half a world away, resulting in the deaths of U.S. Embassy personnel. …

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Jones on Wednesday to ask him to stop promoting Bacile’s film. Clearly, the military considers the film a serious threat to national security. If the military takes it seriously, there should be consequences for putting American lives at risk.

There’s so much stupid in there it’s hard to unpack, but I’d like to focus on one small point that hasn’t gotten very much attention: her call to heed the military’s advice as to what constitutes permissible speech. Let’s think about what her argument here really boils down to. In Anthea Butler’s world, one presumes, the military should be able to shut down anti-military protests because such divisiveness emboldens the enemy and provides them moral support. Our enemies, sensing division, press their advantage when thousands take to the street and call for the end to a conflict in Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever. By Butler’s logic, these protesters are putting American lives at risk and, as a result, should be arrested. Right?

What a moron. You either believe in the First Amendment or you don’t. And Anthea Butler doesn’t.

*Who, as far as I can tell, is not simply a bit of performance art by Steve Martin designed to anger and infuriate the rubes.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

SkinsFanPG September 15, 2012 at 10:28 am

Why on earth is the US Government even acknowledging this “film”? Why? The government had no role in making it or promoting it and cannot do anything about its existence. Every time some official even mentions this youtube video it gives credence to the notion that the government can do something about it.

I’m sorry that other countries and cultures don’t understand freedom of speech. I’m shocked that our officials would make statements that some other countries have a different interpretation of freedom of speech. Here are the different opinions on freedom of speech: the right view and the wrong view- either it is protected vigorously (the right view) or it is not (the wrong view). That is the only argument.

It is beneath the government of the most powerful nation in the history of earth to even acknowledge such a video. This is a disgraceful episode in American history.

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